Vancouver Public Library got real estate advisory firm to edit press release, records show

Vancouver Public Library got a real estate firm to edit a press release promoting a controversial event featuring a pro-development advocate, records obtained via freedom of information requests show.

Brendan Dawe of real estate advisory company Urbanics edited the original draft of the press release prepared by Jorge Amigo, Vancouver Public Library’s Head of Cultural Programming, to announce an event featuring M. Nolan Gray, a researcher[1] at Koch-brothers-funded Mercatus Center[2]

Some of the words added by Dawe to Amigo’s release is highlighted below in bold:

“Many planners, activists, and elected officials across the continent have realized that a key answer to these common problems revolves around one flawed policy: zoning.”

“Join us for a conversation with city planner Nolan Gray about his new book Arbitrary Lines, where he argues that reforming zoning rules is necessary for building more affordable, vibrant, equitable, and sustainable cities.”

Dawe is also a founding member of the YIMBY (short for yes in my backyard) group Abundant Housing Vancouver.

While YIMBYs describe themselves as “pro-housing,” affordable housing advocates accuse YIMBY groups of astroturfing for the real estate industry by promoting neoliberal housing policies[3]

Gray is a director of California YIMBY, which has been criticized by tenants rights groups for receiving millions of dollars from tech moguls and dismissing concerns of poor renters[4]

Dawe participated in a group chat where YIMBYs from Vancouver and Toronto discussed ways to “destroy” affordable housing advocates, academics, and journalists seen as “enemies” who stood in the way of achieving more market housing supply[5]

One of the suggestions made by a member of the group chat was to frame innocent immigrant fathers as pedophiles.

The other participants of the group chat include Abundant Housing Vancouver directors Peter Waldkirch, Owen Brady, and Jennifer Bradshaw.

Eyebrows were raised when Vancouver Public Library announced their partnership with Abundant Housing Vancouver to bring a self-described proponent of neoliberalism to Vancouver merely six months after the chat logs were leaked to the public.

Abundant Housing Vancouver picked up the tab for Gray’s travel expenses, while Vancouver Public Library paid the moderator of the event.

Where does Abundant Housing Vancouver find money to run its operations?

“We do not accept money from the real estate industry,” Abundant Housing Vancouver states on the group’s website.

But the records also show that Abundant Housing Vancouver sought sponsorship from real estate advisory firm Happy Cities.

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